Service Reviews

When have I experienced mm-good worship?   Worship Workshop Leader Marcia McFee asked our small group to answer this question and responses ranged from stories of powerful personal testimonies to memories of sacred song–a lone flute echoing through a great hall or a gospel band with a particularly tight fit between bassist and drummer.   Good worship is meaningful and memorable (“mm good”) according to McFee, and she  suggests worship planners create mm-good worship with three components:

Visual, Verbal and Visceral

Every church includes these three components in varying degrees.  Some of the visual elements lead me to God (candles sometimes do it) and others seem to block my access to God (like a bad glare off-of the plexi-glass drum enclosure).  Some verbal components convey mmm-good wisdom (like a particularly poetic prayer) while others wrap that wisdom in so much plastic that I feel no electricity.  And every church communicates something which we intuit viscerally–it is the “hidden curriculum”.  A member’s frown when my kid cries in the middle of worship leaves me feeling shamed.  A pastor sitting beside me before worship to talk to me rather than standing above me to talk at me communicates a visceral sense of belonging.  Mmmm-good.

I analyze those three aspects of worship when I attend as visitor.  I use two categories, “Windows” and “Walls” under which I share how the visual, verbal and visceral cues enabled (Windows) my worship experience or hindered (Walls) them.  The poet Rumi once said “Your mistakes can also lead to truth.  When you ask, the answer will be given.”  So while it might feel awkward reading a review of one’s worship service online, those who choose to do so, those who ask the question, will find a helpful truth.  Just move your cursor over the “Service Reviews” tab at the top to find your particular tradition.

I will read any responses posted and offer further insights if invited to do so.  I am also glad to visit on another occasion or speak to your organization, free of charge,  if you would find that helpful.

Doug Robinson-Johnson (“Anxious pew”)

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